British Prime Minister Theresa May has told the House of Commons that she will defer the vote tomorrow for her Brexit deal after many within her own party wouldn’t support her deal due to the backstop.

The Guardian reported that “the backstop is a device intended to ensure that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if no formal deal can be reached on trade and security arrangements.”

May Addresses House of Commons

From the BBC:

Prime Minister Theresa May begins her statement.

She says that after three days of debate on the withdrawal agreement in the Commons and much discussion outside Parliament, it is clear that there is “broad support” for many of the key aspects to the deal.

However, there remains widespread concern about the backstop.

This would result in defeat for the deal, she says, were MPs to vote on it.

Therefore, she says the government has made the decision to defer the vote.

So what is the backstop? It has to do with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Guardian stated that “the backstop is a device intended to ensure that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if no formal deal can be reached on trade and security arrangements.” The report continued:

The first is over where it will apply. The EU wants the backstop to affect only Northern Ireland.

Even though the aim is for it to never come into force, Theresa May has ruled out the idea of separate customs arrangements for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – the so-called customs border in the Irish Sea – and it would be completely unacceptable to the DUP.

May has tried to argue that the backstop could apply to the whole of the UK, but this angers Conservative MPs, who dislike the idea of the country being tied to EU rules in the long term.

The UK has sought to make the backstop time limited, but Brussels argues this is impossiblebecause the guarantees it offers are needed for as long as an alternative solution is not found.

May addressed the backstop. From the BBC:

Theresa May says the backstop is a necessary guarentee to the people of Northern Ireland and there is no deal available that does not include the backstop.

She says there are inescapable facts: that Northern Ireland has a border with another sovereign state, that hard-won peace has been built in Northern Ireland over the last two decades over a seamless border, and that after Brexit, the Northern Ireland/Ireland border will be the external frontier of the EU’s single market and customs union.

“These challenge posed must be met not with rhetoric, but with real and workable solutions,” she says.

The prime minister says: “The people do not want a return to a hard border, and if this House cares about preserving our union, they must listen to these people, because our union will only continue with their consent.”

Theresa May says she hopes the changes made will ensure people that the UK will never be trapped in the backstop arrangement permanently, and that the EU won’t want it to come into use or persist for long.

Postponing Brexit Vote

The Guardian reported that May held a phone call with her Cabinet earlier this morning and came to the conclusion “she could not win over enough of the 100 Tory MPs who said they were against the deal.”

European Court of Justice Ruled Brexit Can Be Canceled

What a shock. The European Court of Justice ruled that Brexit can be canceled. From The London Times:

In a victory for Remain campaigners seeking to reverse Brexit, judges at the European Court of Justice have given MPs a new option to unilaterally revoke the EU’s Article 50 withdrawal process.

“The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU,” the court said in a statement.

“Such a revocation, decided in accordance with its own national constitutional requirements, would have the effect that the UK remains in the EU under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a member state.”

As a result of the judgment — against which there can be no appeal — MPs can cancel Brexit after either a second referendum or a parliamentary vote without any threat to Britain’s annual rebate to the Brussels budget or opt-outs from the euro or the EU’s Schengen open borders area.

EU judges ruled that if the government sends a letter to the European Council of Europe’s leaders, with any attached conditions, then the withdrawal procedure can be stopped before Brexit day on March 29, 2019.

“The revocation must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements. This unequivocal and unconditional decision must be communicated in writing to the European Council,” said the ECJ statement.

“Such a revocation confirms the EU membership of the member state concerned under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a member state and brings the withdrawal procedure to an end.”

The Brexit Deal

I blogged about May’s deal, which she unveiled in November. CBS News provided the details:

Withdrawal agreement

Transition period: Britain will leave the EU on March 29 but remain inside the bloc’s single market and be bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship. The transition period can be extended by joint agreement before July 1, 2020 if both parties decide more time is needed.

Irish border: The deal commits the two sides to a “backstop” solution to guarantee the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland remains free of customs posts or other obstacles. It keeps the U.K. in a customs arrangement with the EU, and it will last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. Both sides said they hope to have a new deal in place by the end of 2020, so the backstop is never needed.

Divorce bill: Britain agrees to cover contributions to staff pensions and commitments to EU programs the U.K. made while a member for the funding period that runs to 2020. The bill has previously been estimated at about 39 billion pounds ($50 billion).

Citizens’ rights: EU citizens living in Britain, and Britons elsewhere in the bloc, will continue to have the rights to live and work that they have now.

Political declaration

The seven-page political declaration says Britain and the EU will seek a “free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation,” and “ambitious, comprehensive and balanced” arrangements for the services sector.

Other ambitions include visa-free travel for short-term visits, smooth railroad, air and sea transport, and “comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation.”

Details will be worked out after the U.K. leaves the EU on March 29.

May promised that her government “will deliver Brexit” and that the UK “will not rerun the referendum.”

Some in her party found fault in her proposal. They believe it “leaves Europe with too much control over Britain’s trade and borders, certainly if the U.K. remains for any considerable period part of the bloc’s customs union.” They claim that this move “would betray the British public’s will after the majority voted to leave the EU.”

Environment Secretary Michael Grove said on Radio 4 Today program that the deal can improve “and the prime minister has been seeking to improve this deal.” Up until now, those rebels within the Tories believed “that this is the best possible deal.”

Three Defeats Last Week

The House of Commons delivered May three defeats on December 5. From CNN International:

In little more than an hour on Tuesday, the government suffered three defeats on its Brexit plans. The first two were embarrassing enough: MPs voted that the government was in contempt of parliament, the first time that’s happened in British history. By refusing to publish in full the legal advice on the Brexit deal agreed with the European Union last month, ministers were found to have breached the sovereignty of parliament — and parliament has fought back and reasserted its control.

The third defeat, while more technical, was still hugely significant because it means that next Tuesday, MPs from all parties can decide not only to reject May’s deal but instruct the government on what to do next.

The Labour Party made it known that they are ready for another election. The Northern Irish DUP party feels the same way, even though they have an agreement to support the Tories in order for the Tories to remain in power.

This is why the DUP doesn’t like the plan:

The DUP opposes to May’s Brexit deal because it holds out the prospect of Northern Ireland operating on different regulatory and customs arrangements from the rest of the UK, in the event that future negotiations on a trade deal between London and Brussels collapse.

On Wednesday, when the government was forced to publish that legal advice in full, it became clear that the DUP was right to be wary. Under the “backstop” or insurance arrangement, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be subject to separate customs arrangements, and goods passing between Britain and Northern Ireland would be have to undergo customs checks. The DUP, a staunchly unionist party, see this as effectively breaking up the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

 
 
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